Good Food Guide 2016: Canberra restaurants with chef's hats

Natasha Rudra
Sean McConnell, chef at Monster restaurant at Hotel Hotel.
Sean McConnell, chef at Monster restaurant at Hotel Hotel. Photo: Andrew Meares

There's been a monster win for Canberra at the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016 awards, presented by Vittoria Coffee and Citi.

Monster, the much-lauded restaurant and bar at the trendy Hotel Hotel in New Acton, went straight into the guide on debut with a coveted chef's hat and the award for Regional Wine List of the Year

The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016.
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016. 

Hotel Hotel's group director of food and beverage Michael Gray won praise for a list that showcased the Canberra region's winemaking as well as natural and biodynamic wines. 

Monster's chef Sean McConnell is now the third member of his family to win a prized chef's hat - his older brothers Andrew and Matt are stalwarts of Melbourne's dining scene and have won plaudits for restaurants such as Supernormal and Cumulus Inc.

According to the guide, McConnell's restaurant is "where Canberrans bring unsuspecting visitors to knock their socks off, leading up the dramatic [Nishi] timber staircase to an asymetric table under a skylight garden". 

McConnell's menu of shared plates, including the popular yabby jaffle, and carefully sourced local produce also found favour.

This is the second year in a row that a Canberra restaurant has taken out the regional wine list award.

In 2014, sommelier Josh Donnelly won the award for his wine list at the two-hatted Aubergine in Griffith. He also won the Small Wine List of the Year award for Temporada in Civic.

Aubergine remains Canberra's highest ranked restaurant with two hats. Chef Ben Willis also retained a hat across town at Temporada, the more casual modern Australian eatery he runs with fellow chef Chris Darragh.

"Relieved" is how Willis said he felt after securing a place in the guide for the fifth year in a row.

"It means it wasn't a fluke, it wasn't a one off," he said.

"It's nice to be on top but at the same time I appreciate the industry in Canberra as a whole. It's a changing scene. There's so much going on at different levels. It makes living in Canberra fantastic."

Other winners on the night included fine dining Mediterranean restaurant Ottoman, where Serif Kaya has presided over classic Turkish cuisine for years, and James Mussillon's high end restaurants Courgette and Waters Edge

The other Canberra newcomers to the Good Food Guide were Pialligo Farmhouse, which opened earlier this year, and the modern Japanese restaurant and bar Lilotang at the Burbury Hotel in Barton. 

Pialligo Farmhouse general manager Charlie Costelloe said their "hatting" was validation of the work they've put into the venture.

"We're very focused on what we do so it's very exciting," Costelloe said.

"We have a really hard-working and professional kitchen team who strive for excellence. Watch this space; we have a lot more to come over the next few months."

The awards were announced on Monday night in Sydney. 

with Katie Burgess